The OF Blog: A brief bit more on that colonization discussion

Thursday, March 10, 2011

A brief bit more on that colonization discussion

I've been mostly out of the loop these past few days (work, translation project that has to be turned in next week, life), so I missed seeing the rebuttal to my piece on Shaun Duke's colonization article

I would have liked to have had more time for this, but it seems after reading his response article that there is a semantic disconnect going on here.  When I read statements such as this:

 Larry's desire to focus on the transformative qualities of colonialism, however, is misplaced, not least because his rhetoric paints a rather disturbing picture of indigeneity by nearly dismissing the extensive levels of subjugation, extermination, cultural annihilation, etc. in exchange for a softer, if not sanitized, vision of indigenous interactions with colonists.  His argument is akin to suggesting that we should focus more on the transformative aspects of a woman's interactions with her rich, but physically abusive, nearly-rapist husband.

 I cannot help but wonder if Duke really read my piece carefully.  Ignoring the rhetoric that might remind some unfavorably of say an Andrea Dworkin, this statement (and several others in that piece) is such an egregious misrepresentation of my actual stance (which is, namely, that I do not deny the worst excesses of 19th-20th century Colonialism, considering that was the first basic statement in my original post.  However, casting the terms of discussion in such stark terms distorts a very complex series of interrelationships in which the colonizers and the colonized interacted with one another, interactions which affect a whole host of political, social, and economic issues today) that I am uncertain as to whether or not it is worth exploring this issue.  Duke's application of late 20th century/early 21st century ethos to world-views that in the more ancient cases he mentions in this rebuttal distorts matters greatly.  It is very problematic at the very least to discuss this with someone whose views seem to stray more toward an absolutist side.  Matt Cheney's brief critiques of my original arguments, I should note, have led to some intriguing possibilities in regards to this prickly issue, which I might return to later, once I finish translating a short story.

Of course, the unexplored issue is whether or not "new Colonialism" equates with "colonization" in features, participants, execution, effects, etc.  That still has not been addressed adequately to date, I suppose.


S.M.D. said...

"I cannot help but wonder if Duke really read my piece carefully."

I could say the same of you, Larry, since, in fact, the part you quote leaves out the context that I firmly establish in my original post while also failing to address the bulk of my response, which is not cast in the rhetoric you've cited.

There are few things in life that are absolutes. When you spend as much time as I do studying colonization/colonialism, it becomes pretty clear that it is one of those few things.

Larry said...

Considering that I have a MA in cultural history and that I did in fact write papers on new Colonialism, I would say that I have.

The funny thing about all this is that I did address the bulk when I said that I was sympathetic to most of your arguments, but only questioned the rhetoric that applied to all forms of colonization the forms and aspects of 19th-20th century Colonialism. The two are not the same and I believe you extrapolating from the most virulent form without acknowledging the complexities of the issue is misguided. Simple as that.

Pardon me if I don't care at this particular point to quote Lenin, Hobson, Gallagher, and several others who have weighed in on this. Or that I don't cite the divisions within the ANC, Gandhi's movement, and others. Or that I don't want to weigh in on hegemonic influences and how they shape the matter. Just noting them is enough for the purposes of questioning whether or not the thrust of your argument in regards to which words should be used in a SFnal context. Perhaps you feel it is more cut-and-dried than I do or several others, but you really need to make a better case for the possible alternates.

The issue is problematic and I cannot help but continue to feel that you've obfuscated the deeper issues of who gets to determine how things are labeled.

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